16 November 2017

Sierra Leone: SLPP Spokesman Remanded

National Publicity Secretary of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), Lahai Lawrence Leema, yesterday spent the night at the Male Correction Centre in Freetown after he was refused bail on his maiden appearance in court on seven count charges.

Magistrate Albert J. Moody, presiding at the Siaka Stevens Street Magistrates' Court No.1, ordered his incarceration until the return date on Friday, 17 November.

The opposition spokesman had spent a night in detention at the Criminal Investigations Department headquarters Monday night before he was charged on two separate files - five counts and two counts respectively.

Police accused him of assaulting one Franklyn Rogers, Gerald Sesay and Joseph Kowa at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) newsroom, contrary to the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861.

They also alleged that the youthful Publicity Secretary behaved in a disorderly manner at the SLBC, used threatening language against Joseph Kowa and unlawfully entered the SLBC newsroom without due process.

The accused was represented by some twenty lawyers in the congested courtroom where senior party stakeholders, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, and the Alliance Democratic Party standard bearer Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray were in attendance.

The accused person, cladded in brown suit with an SLPP crest affixed on the right side of the collar, seemed very confident in the dock as he denied all the charges.

Lead defence lawyer, Hindolo Moiwolo Gaveo, started his submission by telling the court that the complainants have not treated the court with the utmost respect it deserves because they have failed to show up without tangible excuse.

He applied to the magistrate for his client to be put on bail, citing Section 79(2) of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965.

He told the court that their client does not pose a flight risk and that he would not jump bail or interfere with prosecution witnesses, adding that they would always present the accused to the court, if granted bail.

Police prosecutor, Assistant Superintendent Samuel Kamara 'vehemently' objected to bail, citing as part of his reasons the fact that the accused failed to avail himself to the police when invited.

Meanwhile, the magistrate admitted the accused to bail with respect to the first file in the sum of Le250 million and two sureties and that bail should be approved by the Deputy Master and Registrar, but remanded him on the other file that contains the five count charges.

Earlier, detective constable Brima Koroma, attached to the CID, told the court that the file was transferred to him from the New England Police Station for further investigation.

He said he went to the scene of crime and was shown the SLBC newsroom where some of the action took place.

He tendered the statement of the accused and produced the invitation letter as well as warrant of arrest the police issued for the accused.

When questioned by lawyer Anthony Brewa on the issuance of the warrant and invitation letter, the witness admitted under cross-examination that the warrant of arrest was issued before the invitation letter, adding that it was not the normal practice.

It could be recalled that the police invited Leema for interrogation after a complaint was made against him by one Joseph Kowa, a staff at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), on allegations that the former forcefully entered one of their studios, interrupted a programme, and assaulted him and others.

On Monday, 6 November, the SLBC issued a press release alleging that Leema had gatecrashed their New England studios, shouting invectives, demanding a right to reply as Franklyn Rogers, a defector from the opposition who now serves as publicity secretary for the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC), made unsubstantiated claims against standard bearer of the SLPP, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio.

Accompanied by party stakeholders, Leema went to CID headquarters on Monday and was detained overnight before he appeared in court yesterday to answer charges of public order offences.

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